Corporate social responsibility, often abbreviated as “CSR”, is no longer a term which only exists in Western nations. Overworked and underpaid employees, environmental pollution problems and workplace accidents have all been major topics in the mainstream press. China has been aware of the social issues and attempted to make changes in corporate practices.
As World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) defined: “Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large”,it involves responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing, such as labor protection, environmental protection, corporate governance and so on.
After China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, accompanied by abundant foreign direct investment, and “Harmonious Society” raised in the fourth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2004, the government has been aware of the implications of CSR in China. For example, the 2006 Chinese Company Law has regulated that companies shall act in good faith and bear related social responsibility; the Chinese Labor Contract Law, amended in 2012, strengthens the protection of employees in quite few aspects and other mandatory and voluntary environmental regulatory policies have been adopted by the national and/or local governments.
In addition, information-based environments could create active and healthy markets, since reports from the media and other open channels could disclose irresponsible activities from corporates. Any corporate who wants to enhance its reputations and brand value, would like to adopt quite a few CSR strategies and actively participates in community service and charity events. Influenced by foreign invested firms, more chinese companies began to implement codes of conduct and compliance and take into account issues like labor rights, health and safety regulations and so on.
In the recent decades, there are more NGOs which grows and works in many social domains, especially environmental protection, consumer protection and animal protection. Such organizations would like to talk and collaborate with companies in order to conduct social practices or solve some social problems.
Compared with the past practices, Chinese companies have improved a lot. However, there are still quite a few problems. In future, China could enact more laws related to the CSR issues and enforce the laws efficiently, such as stricter environmental protection regulations to solve the air pollution problems, or stricter food safety regulations to eliminate toxic and harmful food. Chinese corporates shall be pushed to adopt more CSR practices, such as ISO 14401 environmental management system standard; meanwhile press, NGOs, Industry Associations and other institutes shall invite corporates to report and deliver CSR activities.